- Release Date
- Winter 2015
- No. of Episodes
There are only two guarantees in life: death and taxes. While nobody wants to die, it’s inevitable, and we all will reach that point sooner or later. However, everyone doesn’t end up in the same place. If the person believes in certain religions, our lives are permanently judged by whoever chooses to spend eternity. If we’re lucky, we’ll get rewarded, whether it be heaven or reincarnation, and if we’re unlucky, we’ll end up in hell. Anime and the afterlife isn’t a new concept, but can a series from a studio that has shown great – and sometimes terrible – promise create something worthy of viewers time?
Death Parade is a 2015 Drama anime series from one of the most fan favorited Japanese animation studios around, Madhouse. At the same time, Madhouse has created countless series that has reached a cult following in certain circles and have also touched many viewers’ hearts. While the most significant positive for this studio is whenever they release an anime series, it’s usually on everyone’s radar. However, sometimes a studio fails to impress their audience, and other times a series gets forgotten no matter how great or terrible it may be. This series is on a decent amount of starter anime series lists, and having seen it so many times; it had piqued my curiosity.
We all die, and even though we don’t know what happens to us when we pass on, one thing can be sure, there is at least one place for those who need help sorting themselves out. There is no heaven or hell after death, only a bar that stands between reincarnation and oblivion. One after another, the attendant will offer an interesting random game to the pairs. Their fate of either ascending into reincarnation or falling into the void will be on the line whether it’s bowling, darts, air hockey, or anything in between, each person’s true nature. No matter what happens, this is a guarantee.
With the ghastly parade of death and memories, dancing to the bar master’s whims, the visitors are always welcome, but only half are happy to leave. Welcome to Quindecim, where Deceim, a judge of the afterlife, awaits! Please don’t get too caught up in the glitz and the glamor of the drinks being poured. He’s the loyal overseer of the games that are played within this bar. Playing fair is always mandatory, though some try to cheat; one thing is for sure, you can’t cheat death!
While on paper, this series seems like a run-of-mill high stakes game, where losers will die and vice versa. Though this series could potentially be classified as that anime subgenre, this is anything but that. This series tackles subjects that the viewer may overlook straight away, but one thing about this series that’s appealing to any audience is its use of storytelling. The viewer doesn’t understand anything about the various players upfront, which is excellent because the viewer can determine why they should admire the characters. Many series and movies – both live-action and anime – assume that the viewer will automatically be invested in characters viewers don’t know anything about. This assumption is predominantly made because the creators believe it’ll work only because they’re the main character.
Another aspect that was great about this series, which was more or less, was expected; the pacing was stable for most of the series. This opinion is a safe bet with any post-2010 Madhouse anime series, but there are some underliers. This plotline was easy to follow and was a bit complex but wasn’t too challenging where the viewer needed to review the episodes multiple times to understand what’s happening. While the worldbuilding within this anime was relatively small, it was just big enough to make it enjoyable, which could be somewhat favorable for some.
However, Death Parade does have some negatives within its narrative that must be addressed. For instance, the lazy exposition within this series is utterly terrible. While this series isn’t the worst, the main problem was that the series tries too hard to keep everything a secret. This concept is okay for some series that do it adequately well, but if done incorrectly, it’s much like a six-year-old trying to keep a secret. The series tried way too hard to do way more than what they could do within twelve episodes. At the end of the series, the viewers who’ve made it to the finish line are left with multiple unanswered questions, which are easily answerable if the series just stuck to one plotline.
Another undesirable negative within this series is it had no concrete plot. While this series on the surface could be seen as an episodic anime series, it’s not entirely that. Some episodes are connected and do form some sense of a story, yet it is merely isn’t enough to become a well-rounded story. Nothing within these episodes is fully developed, and when they almost try to start, it’s quickly dissipated with something else. Outside of these two main negatives, the series has the typical setbacks like unoriginal mystery elements, lackluster drama, etc. but those are just the tip of the iceberg within Death Parade.
Unfortunately, when it comes to individual Japanese animation studios, one will expect particular positives within each production. Death Parade’s art style is one of them, and Madhouse did not disappoint, but it would be more shocking if it weren’t great. The consistency of dark and ominous shades of color is a real plus within this deathly series, and that is the best part of the art style. The character designs are slightly rememberable, but only for the male protagonist, so take that positive with a grain of salt. Outside of the smoothness and crisp feel towards this magnificent art style, this series art style was everything one would expect for any post 2010s anime series from Madhouse.
Now, this series’s production quality is a tad better than what one would expect, and that’s exceptionally noteworthy. The Japanese voice actors within this series are easily one of the biggest positives within this series, now the English voice actors are still good, but they’re not even within the same universe compared. The theme song within Death Parade is extraordinarily charming. When it’s added with the opening segment, one can see why this was a fan favorite – it’s downright campy, but in the best way possible.
While this series didn’t have the best narrative, it did have a tremendous rememberable character – and yes, it’s singular. Decim, the bartender of the Quindecim bar, which is located on the fifteenth floor. He oversees the Death Games between people who have died and must be judged. While he is the best character within this series, he isn’t fully fleshed out. The only additional aspect of his character that viewers learn – that isn’t spoiler territory – is that his hobby is making mannequins that resemble guests, which made an impression on him. The main female character is Chiyuki, a human who has no memory of her life or even her real name. She serves as an assistant at Quindecim and learning the methods that arbiters use to judge human souls.
While Chiyuki can be argued to be the most developed character within this series, she is still lifeless. Her role goes well with Decim, but she’s not the best when it comes to development. She has a decent amount of development, but it could’ve been so much better by the end. This series has a decent number of characters outside of those two characters, but they’re unimportant due to the viewer not investing in these characters. Nona is Decim’s boss, whose appearance is that of a young girl. Ginti, a bartender who runs a bar on the twentieth floor. Oculus is the most interesting side character, mainly for his lotus-like beard, which he can be described as the one closest to a god.
Throughout Death Parade, the viewer will potentially be questioning when and if this series will get interesting. While some elements are rather interesting, after a while, the viewer will see the formula way before it happens, which ruins watching this series and any series. If this series was entertaining, it’s only amusing if one has seen its predecessor and hopes it’ll be just as good. By the end of this series, if they make it to the end, they’ll understand why this was one of two series that the studio made that year.
Death Parade is somewhat entertaining, but once the formula is learned and the lack of character development is exposed, the entertainment value plummets. Although I found this series giving me a few curveballs, that’s only due to the change of lines between the dubbed and the subbed and one specific scene that was utterly beautiful. This series wasn’t a horrible one, nor was it the greatest. It’s one of those that’ll be great within certain fan groups, but outside of those, this series is an average drama series at best. If this series didn’t have the hype of its predecessor behind it and the catchy opening, this series would be forgotten, but as I said, it’s not terrible nor excellent; it’s merely average.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.